Immanuel, God With Us
Did Jesus come to this earth only to die? Why did He spend around 33 years on the earth?
Jesus Christ came to earth for more than His great sacrifi ce on the cross! God promised in Isaiah 7:14: "Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name, Immanuel." The name Immanuel means "God with us" (Matt. 1:23) and implies more than a brief visit for one sacrificial act, but rather a sharing of the human experience.
Why was it necessary for God not only to make a sacrifice for man but to come and live with him? Just as designers of unassembled furniture often supplement their instructions with drawings to help assemblers, so God planned from the beginning of time to give man not only instructions, but a perfect model, Immanuel. When we imitate His life, thus allowing ourselves to be conformed to His image, we can become exactly what our Designer intended us to be! (Romans 8:29)
How Our Model Helps Us Deal With Different Aspects of Life
When we face various challenges in life, we can simply look at Christ's example in dealing with similar circumstances and imitate Him. To know how He would deal with various aspects of life it is necessary to analyze not only His words but His actions. For example, consider the attitudes and actions of Jesus toward the following:
- Money. Though Jesus and his apostles kept money for various needs (John 12:6), he did not judge others on the basis of their riches but instead their humility and faith. (Luke 18:18-23; 21:1-4) He taught that the true quality of one's life does not depend upon riches. (Luke 12:15)
- Human achievements. Though Jesus was self-taught and some of His followers (Paul, Apollos) were highly educated, he had nothing but disdain for those who pursued titles and worldly adulation (Matt. 23). His attitude towards those who were proud of worldly achievements can be summed up in his words, "What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?" (Mark 8:36)
- Lusts of the flesh. When tempted by Satan in the wilderness to change stones into bread, Jesus did not flirt with the temptation, but rejected it immediately while quoting scripture. Succumbing to the temptation was unthinkable. (Matt. 4:3-4)
- His relationship with the Father. Jesus talked constantly with the Father, spending all night on occasions in prayer. His attitude in prayer was always, "Not my will but thine." He was not a tester of Divine authority, but submissive in His approach towards the scriptures and the revelation of the Father's will.
- Dealing with weak brethren. Though Jesus constantly chided His apostles for their "little faith", He was careful not to destroy their spiritual self-esteem by insulting them or dismissing them as hopeless. He praised them whenever possible and let them know that He expected better things of them.
- Dealing with rebellious brethren. Jesus spoke strongly with arrogant Jewish leaders perhaps hoping to shake them out of their spiritual stupor with His stinging words.
- Suffering Injustice. "Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: Who committed no sin, Nor was guile found in His mouth; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously" (I Peter 1:21-23). Sometimes our pursuit of what we call justice is simply a carnal desire for vengeance. Jesus learned to suffer injustice without bitterness. We must imitate Him when we feel unfairly treated!
- Evangelism and teaching. Jesus gained the confidence of those He considered to be good ground. He then allowed them to gradually come to see the truth on their own, often by using leading questions. His example in dealing with the woman at the well in John 4 and in teaching the apostles (Matt. 16:13-19; Mark 9:33-37, etc.) should serve as a model for our own evangelism and teaching.
- Et cetera. Jesus must be our model in prayer, in the home, in dealing with the government and unbelievers. In short, before responding to any situation we should ask, "How would Jesus deal with this?" We can know how Jesus would respond to different circumstances only if we are thoroughly acquainted with His life and teachings.
Application & Conclusion
"Preach the man and not the plan" has been a slogan among modernists. Such words reveal a profound ignorance of what it means to love Christ because, how can one love "the Man" while ignoring His plan?
Is it possible that some may go to the other extreme and preach "a plan" that focuses almost entirely on external acts of worship and organization while underemphasizing the person of Jesus Christ? One young woman who has been a Christian for several years recently admitted that while she had studied a lot about the organization of the church, acts of worship, etc. that she had never really read much in the gospels about the life of Christ. That such an oversight could occur indicates severe flaws in the system of teaching to which she was exposed!
A few Christians know what are commonly called "the five acts of worship," "the five acts of obedience", "three ways to establish authority", etc. and at the same time are materialistic, proud and self centered, making little progress towards becoming like Christ. Perhaps they know "a plan", but they obviously don't know "the Man!" Just as the attitude which says "preach the man and not the plan" leads to modernism, preaching a plan while underemphasizing the person of Jesus Christ, His life and attitudes, leads to cold, sterile ritualism. Neither extreme is true Christianity!
Immanuel did not come simply to leave a new set of regulations for the church. He came to serve as a model for individuals who want to be conformed to the image of God. The more we truly know Him and imitate Him the more our responses to life's challenges will be His instead of those of the flesh. When our carnal instincts have become replaced by Christ's and our will conforms in every way to His, then we will be truly Christlike! We will have become what God intended us to be and will share eternity with Him and with all who have allowed themselves to be conformed to the image of His Son, Immanuel.